Sin City: A Dame To Kill For - Cinema Review

'Whilst neither of the newly penned stories here could be considered genuinely bad, Miller simply isn't the writer he was during the 1990s'.

Appearing nine years after the original Sin City, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame To Kill For unfortunately feels like it's spent a little too much time on the drawing board. Rodriguez and Miller spend every one of the films hundred-odd minutes striving to recapture the brilliance of their first outing, but it constantly seems as though both men have lost something of the sharp, fresh edge they had when bringing Miller's neo-noir graphic novels to the big screen for the first time nearly a decade earlier.

From the opening pre-title tale featuring Marv (Mickey Rourke) trying to remember how he's found himself surrounded by dead bodies and a crashed police car, A Dame To Kill For constantly attempts to mirror the success of its predecessor but ultimately never manages to fully capture it. Whereas Sin City's opening vignette featuring Josh Hartnett's mysterious Salesman felt like the perfect introduction to the style and tone of that film, here the story feels entirely superfluous, adding nothing to the overall product and even coming across at one or two points as an exercise in showily flexing the film's 3D muscles.

The problems persist in A Dame To Kill For's central trio of interwoven narratives. Rodriguez again chooses to mirror the format of Sin City by splitting his first story into two parts. But where there was a point to this method in the original film, enhancing Rodriguez's power as a storyteller, here it in fact weakens the yarn he's spinning. It feels as though the director has only chopped the tale in two because it's what he did last time, but then hasn't looked closely enough at the finished product to see whether it actually works here.

It's an issue exacerbated by Miller's screenplay. Two of the three narratives presented in A Dame To Kill For ("The Long Bad Night" and "Nancy's Last Dance") were written exclusively for the film, whereas the remaining story ("A Dame To Kill For") is taken from one of Miller's original graphic novels. The difference in quality between Miller's older and newer writing is considerable, the two more recent yarns simply feeling flat and ordinary when compared to the gritty pizzazz exuded by the classic tale. "The Long Bad Night" has its moments, but is abruptly deflated by an unsatisfying anticlimax that renders the whole story almost pointless. "Nancy's Last Stand" fares better but is still patchy, suffering from emulating too closely a few too many narrative beats played out earlier in the film within "A Dame To Kill For". Whilst neither of the newly penned stories here could be considered genuinely bad, Miller simply isn't the writer he was during the 1990s.

Despite its clear faults, A Dame To Kill For nonetheless offers a fair amount to like. The stellar cast is comprehensively solid; Eva Green as the manipulative Ava Lord delivers the standout performance, with Powers Boothe a close second as slimeball Senator Rourke. Rodriguez demonstrates panache in lining up satisfying cameos, with brief but memorable appearances from Ray Liotta and Christopher Lloyd. Whilst the film's distinctive quasi-monochrome rendering may not feel as fresh and different as it did almost a decade ago, there's no denying its aesthetic allure with a number of breathtakingly artistic moments throughout.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For isn't the sequel many will have been hoping for, only very occasionally coming close to the exceptional quality of the original and mostly falling significantly short of it. But whilst Miller and Rodriguez may not prove themselves to be the filmmakers they once were, there's no denying that, on the sporadic occasions they do get it right, revisiting Sin City's pulp-infused pavements is still an occasional joy.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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